Moby Dick Analysis

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Moby Dick is a novel which continuously plays with structure and style; as its own blurb states, this is an education “in the art of writing”. However, this specific passage is part of one of the shortest and perhaps simplest chapters within the novel. It has a clear perspective, an equal amount of dialogue and action and contrary to many prior chapters, completely lacks a periodic sentence. This all amounts to this being one of the few proairetic coded chapters which, when paired with the chapter’s physical brevity, makes this one of the most interesting and gripping excerpts from the novel.

Matthew Clark describes the periodic statement as “a particular kind of sentence; a long one, typically including grammatical subordination and intended
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It begins with more subtle hints as Ahab describes the metal he wishes to forge the harpoon out of; “these are the gathered nail-stubbs of the steel shoes of racing horses”. The reference to hooves is supposed to conjure the image of Satan’s own cloven hooves but, more subtly, the reference to racing horses, in particular, suggests an element of gambling, which might suggest Ahab is not only gambling with his life but because gambling is also a sin, it deliberately reveals the ill-fated and ungodly nature of his pursuit. This subtlety is then completely abandoned in favour of dramatic tangible action. Through the aforementioned codes, Melville has encouraged the concept that Ahab has at some point sold his soul and we get the feeling of the Faustian-like pact without the need for a physical deal. However, in this passage Ahab recites a subverted Latin Baptist ritual, “‘Ego non baptize the in nomine parties, seed in nomine diabolic’ ” – “I do not baptise you in the name of the father, but in the name of the devil” (explanatory notes, 335, pg. 491) which thus encourages the reader to see Ahab as an agent of the devil…show more content…
However, the three parts also conjure images of the devil’s pitchfork which is later developed as;

“snatching the burning harpoon, Ahab waved it like a torch among them […] Petrified by his aspect, and still more shrinking from the fiery dart that he held, the men fell back in dismay, and Ahab again spoke: ‘All your oaths to hunt the white whale are as binding as mine; and heart, soul, and body, lungs and life, old Ahab is bound.”

The pitchfork imagery is extremely obvious here as Ahab reveals the binding nature of the sailors’ pact and as the crew and reader begin to understand the satanic immorality of their oath and mission. Moreover, one could also compare Ahab to a vengeful God, with his untrimmed beard and brand of fire Ahab is easily comparable to Zeus, a similarly tyrannical and powerful leader as Melville continues to reference not only biblical but Greek mythology as well. Furthermore, this mania builds upon Ahab’s earlier erratic energy as he “deliriously howled” upon completing the ritual, revealing how he has become animalistic and mad in the proximity of his

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